California Governor Jerry Brown’s newly released state budget calls for the formation of a new online community college to serve millions of potential adult learners throughout the state, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Supporters say the online college is necessary to educate some 2.5 million Californians unable to take classes on a campus but who still need access to job training. Governor Brown, who has criticized California’s university system for inadequately controlling costs, believes the idea is an important step toward making higher education more affordable.
Two other state university systems have similar options. The University of Wisconsin system offers a limited number of degree and certificate programs through the UW Flexible Option, which also caters to adults. The State University of New York offers online degree programs through its Open SUNY platform, allowing students to take any online courses from the system’s 64 campuses.
In the 2016 academic year, 6.34 million students were enrolled in at least one online course, compared with 5.99 million students the previous year. Online course enrollments grew even as post-secondary enrollments flatten or decreased.
Demand for online education is accelerating and there’s no denying it will be a critical component of higher eduction in the future. Adult learners require more flexible and accessible education options that online programs provide. Failing to invest in online education means that institutions risk losing millions of potential enrollees to competitors. That's one of the main reasons Purdue University acquired the big for-profit Kaplan University, which enrolls thousands of online learners.
The good news is that education experts believe that online education is still in its infancy. Investments in e-learning are up. For example, the market research firm, Markets and Research, reports that the e-learning market will be valued at $325 billion by 2025 because of increasing demand for distance learning, government programs and initiatives, growing penetration of internet and mobile learning and recent technological developments.